THE TWO-GUN KIDMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1962
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Thor
to say nothing of Iron Man, The Black Panther, S.H.I.E.L.D. and most of the other characters Marvel Comics has been exploiting for the past four decades or so. But not all their creations are equally stellar — take this one, for example. Of all the continuing features that resulted from the early 1960s collaboration of Lee and Kirby, only Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos rivals this one for minorness, and only Doctor Droom (sic — not the similarly-named Fantastic Four villain) exceeds it.
The Kid was actually Harvard-educated lawyer Matthew Hawk, whose arrival in 1870s Tombstone (not the famous Tombstone; this one's in Texas) kicked off the series. The first story also introduced schoolmarm Nancy Carter, who quickly got a "thing" going with Matt, and Nancy's brother, tough guy Clem Carter. Clem and Matt clashed early on, and the latter, a puny Eastern dude, came off the worse. But that didn't stop him from intervening later, when Clem and his gang started picking on an old man named Ben Dancer.
Ben, a former "name" gunfighter, chased them off by drawing his gun, but was still grateful enough to teach Matt all the skills he'd had in his youth. Matt didn't go public about his new-found prowess, but instead made himself a fancy costume, complete with mask, took on the name of an old dime novel character — The Two-Gun Kid — and set out to use his abilities to right wrongs and suchlike. Only his pal, Boom-Boom Brown, who wore a ten-gallon hat (and you knew there had to be one of those in the story), knew Two-Gun and Matt were one and the same. (Previous Marvel western heroes with secret identities included The Black Rider and The Apache Kid.)
The origin story appeared in Two-Gun Kid #60 (November, 1962). The first 59 issues, published between 1948 and '61, were about an entirely different character called The Two-Gun Kid — star of Marvel's first western comic, and the one now being passed off as a mere dime novel character. It wasn't the first use of such a ploy — six years earlier, DC's character, The Flash, had chosen his name the same way.
Kirby stuck with the character for three issues, then moved on to create more, while Dick Ayers (The Human Torch, The Avenger), followed by a host of other illustrators, carried Two-Gun's story forward. Lee left the series not long after. It settled into a comfortable niche alongside Kid Colt, Outlaw and The Rawhide Kid, as a vestige of Marvel's once-mighty western line. Toward the late 1960s, as westerns became more and more passé, reprints started crowding out the new stories. In fact, when they ran out of stuff to reprint, they revamped the original Two-Gun's stories, altering his costume to match the newer look, and reprinted them, never mind the supporting characters. Eventually, the title bit the dust. The final issue was #136 (April, 1970). His reprinted adventures continued to appear in Mighty Marvel Western, an anthology he shared with Rawhide and Colt, but by 1976 it, too, was gone.
But Marvel seldom gives up a character, even one as seemingly unexploitable as this. He turned up as a guest star with, of all things, The Avengers, during one of their time traveling adventures. In fact, he got back together with them later on, and even became a reserve member during a lengthy sojourn in the 1980s, palling around with Hawkeye. Since then, he's been seen in occasional team-ups, reprints and whatnot, at least often enough to keep his trademark from expiring.
Incidentally, somewhere along the way, he suffered a rather odd retcon. His last name, Hawk, is now an assumed one. According to the current version of his back-story, he was born Matthew Liebowicz.